Friday, February 19, 2010

No. 9: A History of Stull, Ohio

Stanton County, Ohio, located in the far western expanses of the state along the Indiana border, was not a remarkable county. No Civil War battles took place there, no one famous had grown up there and Stanton's requests for an Interstate highway had continually fallen through.

Stanton County was established in 1817 after being detached from Miami County. The county seat was established in Greenville until 1833 when Tontzville, who had just surpassed Greenville's population, won the county seat in a hotly contested election. By 1900, Greenville would no longer exist.

Tontzville was founded in 1808 as was Frontenac, a city just two miles southeast of Tontzville. Frontenac was the third biggest city in Stanton County and was unfortunately sometimes included in Tontzville's population statistics. The other city in Stanton County was Delia, located near the Stanton-Mercer County line. Delia was the second largest city but only by a couple hundred people.

Stanton County was divided into 19 townships. The bottom tier consists of Harrison, Calhoun, Houk and Black Jack Townships and includes the villages of Irving and Ferguson and the unincorporated communities of Hollansburg, Veteran City, Rich City, Boicourt, Greever and Minneola. The next tier consists of Liberty, Neave, Frontenac and Palmyra Townships; the city of Frontenac; the village of Liberty and the unincorporated community of Buck Creek. The next tier consists of Washington, Worden, Greenville and Brooklyn Townships; the city of Tontzville, the village of Brooklyn and the unincorporated communities of Darke, Globe, Richland and Gettysburg. The next tier consists of Union, Grant, York and Versailles Townships and includes the unincorporated communities of Union, Hesper, Boston, Wayne City and Frenchtown. The top and last tier consists of Rock Creek, Sarcoxie and Pacific Townships; the city of Delia, the villages of Stull, Imes and Rock Creek and the unincorporated communities of Twin Mound, Marion, Marshall, Sarcoxie, Wabash and Pacific City. Each of these towns and locations have their own stories and beginnings but for now we'll turn our attention to Rock Creek Township.

Located in northwest Stanton County, Rock Creek Township is named for a creek that branches off from the Greenville River and runs through Marion, Stull, Twin Mound and ends near Rock Creek. The now-unincorporated community of Rock Creek was once a bustling community with businesses and stores and banks but after the Civil War, the town dwindled down to nearly nothing and Rock Creek wound up with more abandoned buildings than people. A few downtown buildings remain--the shell of the Rock Creek Bank, the old city hall and an old store--taunting the residents of a once-prosperous town.

The dominant town in Rock Creek Township was Stull which was settled in 1828. A church was built in 1834 and still stands in ruins near the intersection of the county roads. Stull is home to the junior high and high school for the Rock Creek Unified School District and to two beautiful churches. In 1909, when the Old Stull Church got too small, a wood frame church was constructed across the street. That one grew too small in 1947 so another bigger church was built with marble spire reaching toward the heavens. An amazing limestone Catholic church was built in 1889 and these were the two churches that welcomed visitors since their spires and roofs rose above the trees.

The downtown area was located between Sixth and Ninth along Ohio Street and boasted not only the Farmer's Bank of Stull and buildings for the village government, but also a pizza place, a hardware store, a video rental and arcade, a sandwich shop, a small grocery store, a post office that serviced an area made up of parts from Rock Creek, Union, Grant and Sarcoxie Townships, a small bookstore, a doctor's office that also included a dentist, chiropractor and gynocologist who drove to Stull once a week from Tontzville or Delia, a volunteer fire department and a salon.

Stull also had its share of abandoned buildings--mostly houses--dotting the town. Most were on the east side of County Road 460. In 1872, a railroad was built along the eastern edge of town. More people moved closer to the tracks and the north-south numbered streets were renamed with First Street closest to the tracks and ending with Twelfth Street. When the tracks became abandoned after World War I, people began to move away.

In an effort to save both Stull and Rock Creek, in 1973, the three school districts in Rock Creek Township were merged into the Rock Creek Unified School District. Rock Creek got the elementary school while Stull got the junior high and high school. The village of Imes was unfortunately left out despite having a bigger population than Rock Creek.

Sometime in the mid-1980s, the Tontzville Gazette reported that the Devil visited Stull Cemetery every year. Stull officials vehemently denied this but the legends grew and grew and while Stull's history was researched, some strange things did stick out including an odd situation with the town founders. The history of Stull focused a lot on religion which probably helped fuel the flames of urban legends.

There were people in and around Stull who did believe that there was a curse on the town and this included lifelong residents, newcomers, young, old, men and women. And one of these people was Frank York.

Frank York was certain there was a curse not only on Stull but on all of Rock Creek Township. When Frank was six, his older sister, Madeline woke up at about three in the morning and entered their parent's bedroom. She stabbed each of them 28 times then left their bedroom to do the same thing to her brother.

Frank heard his parent's screams and was able to run away to a neighbor's house where the police were called and Madeline arrested and sent to a mental health facility in Cincinnati. Frank moved in with his mom's sister and her husband who also lived in Stull. He hasn't seen his sister since.

Everything went well for Frank until he was fifteen and his uncle committed suicide. It was just him and his aunt until recently when his aunt, who never smoked or stayed near people who did smoke, developed lung cancer and died a few months later.

The curse, if there was one, was not limited to Frank. His best friends had also suffered curious deaths in their families. Matthew Stull, whose family Stull got its name, has never had a male in his family live past the age of 40 after his family moved there and Katie Anderson, who moved to Stull in the sixth grade, came home from school to discover her mom hanging in the kitchen only a couple months after moving there.

After college, Frank did some reporting for the Tontzville Gazette but after his aunt died he decided to open an agency devoted to learning about Stull's history and investigating the odd occurrences in and around the town. He went back to school for paranormal and criminal investigating and opened the Rock Creek Township Historical Society. He hired Matt and Katie to help him with the Society and with the investigations.

While people supported Frank recording their area's history, people were reluctant to hire them to do research into "the curse". Frank's agency was open for almost a year when Judith Lawrence walked into their office.

To be continued in Stull #1, beginning on Feb. 20th.